*This guest post was written by Paul Rice, Star Wars fan and voice of reason.I’ve been thinking a lot about Star Wars this life, and here are some thoughts that feel important. If you’re into Star Wars, please do give it a read and also, I love you.
First of all, Solo was great, I loved it, and I completely recommend it to anyone – human, animal, alien, droid, etc. Apparently it’s “underperforming” commercially (for a Star Wars, whatever that means), and it deserves much better than that. It’s so fun.
Second, if you’re on the internet, you may have noticed that the Star Wars fan community has been in a really weird place lately. There’s never been a perfect Star Wars film; ever since the beginning, being a fan meant that the magic of the galaxy far, far away was powerful enough to you that any imperfections didn’t matter. Maybe this is true of the whole fantasy genre. But through the prequel era and now the Disney era, that basic equation still holds true. Someone in 2018 watching A New Hope might hate it if they go into it with unreasonably high expectations, or if they’re not interested in or receptive to that magic – even if they might have loved it had they seen it first as a kid. Kids are open to magic.
Star Wars fans need to chill out
The Last Jedi was divisive. I personally loved it for its insistence on shrugging off certain fans’ comfort-food expectations, having themes that were intentionally cryptic or even contradictory (reflecting the chaos and obliqueness of real life). This is something we, in my Creative Writing classes called “good writing.” I’m not surprised that some fans weren’t into that.
Not everyone wants their Star Wars to have frustrating twists or thematic ambiguity. Many would rather their Luke Skywalker be this ever-ascending demigod character than a flawed human working through his demons like anyone else. Plot twists that are supposed to be frustrating are, well, frustrating. It’s okay not to enjoy that.
Timing is Everything
The movie came about at a really unfortunate time. For one thing, we’re in an age of internet where complaints and criticisms spread much faster than harmony and appreciation. Within days of TLJ coming out, there was a huge fan backlash. Or was there? I’ve talked to a few people in real life who didn’t love it, and a handful who really hated it, but by and large the spread wasn’t any worse than The Force Awakens, in my personal experience.
But the internet! Geez. On the internet you would think it was universally hated and a total failure and Star Wars is dead forever now. It pains me to draw any comparisons to the political landscape of America right now, but it wouldn’t be a complete picture without pointing out that a very vocal online minority HATES the new movies’ decision to have a more diverse cast (they’re people who use the term SJW). I really hope that dies down.
Can’t we all just get along? Or at the very least, co-exist?
Star Wars fandom is in a weird place. More accurately, there are really two communities right now, and they don’t see eye to eye. I’m in the quieter majority, I think – those who are happy that more Star Wars movies are being made. None of the new ones are totally perfect, nor has any Star Wars ever been, but they’re fun and diverse and made with great care for the galaxy, and I’m delighted every time I get to ride the magic back to my favorite (very real) imaginary place.
The other camp has existed ever since the backlash against Ewoks in 1983 – the fans who feel personally betrayed when something in their beloved galaxy changes. They’re the fans whose vitriol burned out George Lucas from moviemaking and destroyed the careers of many of the prequel-era actors – as recently as this week, online harassment drove TLJ actress Kelly Marie Tran to shut down most of her social media presence, and if you look at almost any Facebook post from the official Star Wars account, some of these fans feel compelled to bash the new movies in almost every comment section possible (even a recent happy birthday post for Kelly. I mean, come on. And apparently one today for the new head of Lucasfilm got the same treatment.) These are the reactionary-conservative Star Wars fans, who want their beloved Star Wars to stay exactly the same as it was when they fell in love with it.
Now, I’m not saying you have to enjoy every single Star Wars movie to be a fan. It’s fine not to, it really is. Your loss. While I do believe each of us has the power to make ourselves receptive (or not) to the Star Wars magic, if a movie doesn’t land with you, that’s alright. But on the internet, this community is so aggressive about sharing their distaste for the new stuff that it really spoils the fun for us in the other group. It’s toxic, it’s exhausting, and it’s really not helping anything. And from the outside it makes us all look like big salty turds. (Also, for some reason this camp seems to be comprised of 90+% dudes, which I have no explanation for but find interesting.)
The Bottom Line
Solo was great, and I loved it. It’s a pure, simple adventure, taking those Firefly-style space western vibes and finding a perfect fit for them within the Star Wars galaxy. It throws plenty of bones for long-time superfans while being readily accessible if you’ve barely seen a single Star War. If you go into it expecting it to be a full Star Wars trilogy movie with all the mysticism and epic scope, you may be disappointed, but don’t do that. It’s a side story; let it be what it is and you’ll love it.
And I’m talking to both groups here. If TLJ came at the wrong time, 2018 is the perfect time for Solo. It’s so easy to enjoy, and with so little at stake, it’s exactly the movie that can bring both camps back together to enjoy the magic. If there’s any hope of the Star Wars community coming back together, Solo is that hope. Check it out if you haven’t. I’ll be seeing it a few more times.